Enfilade

After Restoration Tiepolo’s Bacchus and Ariadne Back on View in DC

Posted in museums by Editor on June 17, 2018

Press release (25 May 2018) from the National Gallery in Washington:

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Bacchus and Ariadne, ca. 1743/1745, oil on canvas (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, Timken Collection).

Following a four-year-long conservation treatment, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Bacchus and Ariadne (ca. 1743/1745) returns to public view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, on 14 June 2018. The comprehensive restoration has revealed elements by the Venetian master hidden from view since the work was removed from its original location at the end of the 18th century. The dramatic results provide viewers with a new sense of the immense painting’s appearance at the time of its creation.

“The conservation of this remarkable work reveals significant discoveries about Tiepolo’s process and clues to the painting’s original home,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “This project also represents one of the many instances of rich collaboration between the Gallery’s team of conservators, scientists, and curators, all leaders in their field.”

Bacchus and Ariadne is believed to have been created to decorate the staircase of an unknown Venetian palace, only identified in a (now-lost) letter from 1764 by Tiepolo as the palace of “V.E.” The painting was probably one of four works—only three of which are known to survive—that each depicted a natural element. Bacchus and Ariadne represents earth, The Triumph of Amphitrite (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden) represents water, and Juno and Luna (Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston) represents air. The location of the fourth painting—which likely depicted Vulcan, the god of fire, and his wife, Venus—is unknown. A smaller example by Tiepolo of the same subject at the Philadelphia Museum of Art does, however, give a sense of what the painting may have looked like. All three of the extant paintings are connected by similar architectural motifs that would have tied them to their original locations, such as stone volutes at the top corners and long-necked, griffin-like forms in the bottom left and right corners. These architectural elements were likely painted over when the works were removed from their original setting, which according to curatorial records was done by 1798.

Treatment Details

The project’s painting conservator, Sarah Gowen Murray, worked closely with colleagues in painting conservation, scientific research, and preventive conservation to treat the painting and conduct analysis of the work. Overpaint removal uncovered tall vertical leaves on the left and right sides of the composition. Infrared imaging—conducted by John Delaney, senior imaging scientist—and analysis of cross-section samples of those areas—examined and interpreted by Barbara Berrie, head of the scientific research department—indicated that the leaves were originally bound together by gold ribbons. A precedent for the ribbons was established in another work by Tiepolo, Castigo dei Serpenti (The Scourge of the Snakes) (1732–1735) at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. These findings, archived documentation images, and other works by the artist were then consulted to reconstruct the missing elements with inpainting.

Other discoveries made during the treatment include indications of significant compositional changes made by Tiepolo, suggesting that Bacchus and Ariadne may have been the first painting of the series. X-radiographs exposed curved forms at the lower-right corner extending beneath the griffin and the jaguar—perhaps initial attempts by the artist to incorporate the composition into the work’s surrounding architecture.

Bacchus and Ariadne

Tiepolo’s painting magnificently depicts the moment before Bacchus, the god of wine, crowns Ariadne after falling in love with her. According to the myth, Bacchus discovered Ariadne on the shore of the island of Naxos where she was left behind by her lover, Theseus. Following this scene, Ariadne ascended to Mount Olympus, gaining immortality. Tiepolo’s rendering of the myth shows Bacchus sitting unsteadily atop a barrel with the glittering crown in hand. Bacchus is surrounded by revelers holding jugs of wine and grapevines, representing the fecundity of earth, while one of the jaguars that led his chariot rests beneath him. The wheat Ariadne wears in her hair and reeds held in her hand further symbolize the earth.

Following its removal from its original setting, Bacchus and Ariadne remained in private collections in Italy and Vienna before being sold in the late 1920s to William Robert Timken and Lillian Guyer Timken. The painting came to the Gallery in 1960 as part of the Timken Collection. Oliver Tostmann, now curator of European paintings at Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, contributed significantly to the understanding of Baccchus and Ariadne and its counterparts when he was a Joseph McCrindle Fellow and then Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the National Gallery from 2007 to 2011.

New Exhibitions at Monticello Include Life of Sally Hemings

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on June 17, 2018

Sarah Stockman reports on the Sally Hemings exhibition for The New York Times (16 June 2018), and the Monticello website now provides extensive information on Hemings. From the press release (7 June 2018) from Monticello:

On June 16, in conjunction with national Juneteenth events, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello will welcome a gathering of descendants of enslaved families, commemorate 25 years of its Getting Word Oral History Project, and unveil new exhibits and restored spaces, including a groundbreaking exhibit on Sally Hemings.

The opening marks the conclusion of a five-year restoration initiative, known as The Mountaintop Project. Initiated by a transformational gift from David M. Rubenstein in 2013, the project has made possible a total of nearly 30 new restored or recreated spaces and exhibits. Iconic rooms, on every level of the house, received updated interpretation or were restored for the first time. On Mulberry Row, buildings were physically and virtually restored or reconstructed. Together, these spaces illuminate the stories of individuals and families, and reveal how the lives of the free and enslaved were interwoven.

“In Jefferson’s words, we ‘follow truth wherever it may lead,’” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “This transformation of Monticello—made possible by decades of research, hundreds of descendants, and thousands of donors—brings forward a more honest, relevant, and inclusive view of our history.”

On June 16, six new exhibits and restored spaces will open for the first time, including:
The Life of Sally Hemings — an immersive digital exhibit, anchored in the South Wing where she once lived, that relies on the words of her son, Madison, to explore her life and legacy;
The Getting Word Oral History Project — an exhibit on the enslaved families of Monticello and their descendants;
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson — an exhibit which provides fresh insights into the life of Jefferson’s wife, located in the first building erected at Monticello;
The Granger-Hemings Kitchen — an exhibit on Monticello’s first kitchen and new archaeological discoveries that reveal the stories of enslaved cooks, Ursula Granger, James Hemings, and Peter Hemings;
The Dairy — a restored, period room where enslaved workers made cream, butter and soft cheese for the household; and
The Textile Workshop — a restored ca. 1775 structure featuring an exhibit about Mulberry Row and a room depicting the factory where enslaved women and children turned cotton, hemp, and wool into cloth for enslaved people and enterprise.

For years, visitors have learned about Sally Hemings on tours of Monticello. Now, for the first time, her story will have a dedicated physical space on the mountaintop.

“It represents a different chapter in public history at Monticello,” said Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family and professor of history at Harvard University. “It will have a ripple effect on the way people think about slavery on the mountain overall and that’s actually very exciting.”

To commemorate the occasion and celebrate 25 years of the Getting Word Oral History Project, Monticello is hosting a free public event and a gathering for descendants of enslaved families. The gathering is expected to be the largest reunion of descendants of enslaved families in modern history.

The Look Closer opening event will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Annette Gordon-Reed and Jon Meacham, violinist Karen Briggs, patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, national policy analyst Melody Barnes, and more. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see a rare version of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln and generously loaned by David M. Rubenstein. It will be on view in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery at the David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center from June 11 through July 11, 2018.

London Art Week, Summer 2018 / Launch of Tomasso XXV

Posted in Art Market, books, museums by Editor on June 17, 2018

From London Art Week:

London Art Week, Summer 2018
28 June — 6 July 2018

London Art Week is a twice-yearly event, offering the best of pre-contemporary art in London’s traditional fine art district. From Ancient sculptures to Old Master drawings and post-Impressionist paintings, London Art Week offers visitors the chance to see, and buy, extraordinary works. For seasoned collectors as well as those simply curious to learn more about art, London Art Week dealers are always on hand and delighted to share their knowledge and expertise. Talks and events are scheduled throughout the week, delivered by some of the UK’s most distinguished art historians and curators. There is no tent: visitors have the luxury of discovering masterpieces within our beautiful gallery spaces, all situated within walking distance.

From the press release for Tomasso Brothers Fine Art:

Catalogue Launch of Tomasso XXV: A Celebration of Notable Sales
Tomasso Brothers, London, 28 June — 6 July 2018

For the summer edition of London Art Week 2018, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art is proud to present a new publication, Tomasso XXV, a celebratory catalogue marking the many notable sales made in 25 years of activity. London Art Week runs from 29 June to 6 July 2018, and copies will be available at Marquis House, 67 Jermyn Street, St. James’s, the London gallery of Tomasso Brothers.

The catalogue features more than 50 works ranging from bronze sculptures to oil paintings, and dating from antiquity to the late Neoclassical periods, demonstrating the breadth and quality of works sold by Tomasso Brothers to museums and private collectors the world over. Tomasso Brothers Fine Art is recognised internationally for specializing in important European sculpture, thus works in wood, terracotta, marble, and bronze feature prominently; however, Dino and Raffaello Tomasso are also passionate about fields such as Old Master paintings and objets d’art, represented here by fabulous examples.

The historic sales illustrated in the catalogue range from distinctive sketches, such as Joseph Nollekens’s (1737–1823) terracotta rendering of a pensiero of Eve Bewailing the Death of Abel, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, to rare bronzes, such as the Pacing Bull from a ‘Rape of Europa’ group, executed in Padua around 1520–25, re-united with its original figure of Europa thanks to Tomasso Brothers, at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; and from the powerful, such as the triumphant Julius Caesar carved in limewood by Giambologna (1529–1608), a statuette now known to be not only the earliest recorded work by the master but also the only surviving sculpture that he executed in wood (today in a private collection, Antwerp), to the intimate, such as Nymph Entering a Bath by Richard James Wyatt (1795–1850) one of the foremost British heirs of Canova, which sold last year from Tomasso Brothers’ Canova and his Legacy exhibition to the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

Other highlights in the catalogue are a pair of portraits by the master of miniatures Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) depicting Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720–1788) and Prince Henry Benedict Stuart (1725–1807) which, subsequent to their presentation and sale (to a private collection, Germany) by Tomasso Brothers at TEFAF 2015, were shown in the Liotard exhibition at London’s Royal Academy, 2015/2016; a white marble Farnese type bust of Emperor Caracalla by Joseph Claus (1718–1788), a milestone in the development of early Neoclassicism in Rome and a signature work by one of the most accomplished German sculptors of the eighteenth century, now with the Saint Louis Art Museum; and a high-relief, boxwood panel by Grinling Gibbons (1648–1721), a magnificent demonstration of sculptural bravura on a reduced scale and one of the earliest known works by Gibbons, who is widely considered to be Britain’s greatest woodcarver. As attested by the presence of the coat of arms of the Barwick family from Yorkshire, which is visible on a harp in the foreground, the panel, likely carved in York (where Gibbons trained under John Etty after arriving from Rotterdam around 1667) now resides at Fairfax House Museum, York, United Kingdom.

The catalogue also illustrates some major rediscoveries by Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, including The Triumph of Autumn by Jacob Hoefnagel (1573–1632/35), an exquisite oil on copper, signed and dated 1605, painted in Rome for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552–1612), and The Death of Saint Peter Martyr by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo (c.1480–c.1548), a protagonist of Venetian Renaissance painting, renowned for the hushed brilliance of his palette and uniquely atmospheric quality of his compositions, now in the Art Institute of Chicago.